PREVIEW: Crusaders v Hurricanes (Semifinal)

Getty Images

Thursday, July 26, 2018    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Match details: Crusaders v Hurricanes, 7.35pm, July 28, AMI Stadium. TICKETS.

Played: 34
Won: Crusaders 19, Hurricanes 12, Draws 3
Last time: Crusaders 24-13 Hurricanes, AMI Stadium, May 25, 2018

The head-to-head form between the sides shows how close the sides are. The Crusaders average 34 points per game and the Hurricanes 29.8 while the Crusaders score 4.8 tries per game and the Hurricanes 4.1. But there is not much separating them across other key measures. In carries the Crusaders have 114.5 to 110 and in metres made they lead 461.2 to 447.1. Clean breaks favour them 13.4 to 11.6 while defenders beaten are 22.6 to 22.4. The Hurricanes are fractionally better in offloads 8.8 to 8.6 and in kicks from hand 20.6 to 18.8. They also average 120.6 tackles per game and the Crusaders 112. In missed tackles the Hurricanes are minimally higher at 21.7 to 20. In turnovers, the Hurricanes have conceded fewer 14.6 to 15.3 while they have also won more turnovers 8.0 to 6.6 per game. Lineout success is split at 85 percent while the Crusaders are one percent ahead in scrums 93-92 and rucks 97-96.
Crusaders and All Blacks prop Joe Moody is the only change to the defending champions' lineup for the semifinal. Tim Perry moves to the bench to accommodate Moody leaving no place for Wyatt Crockett. Coach Scott Robertson said the team had been the hardest to name this season because everyone who had worn the jersey had performed and the depth was so good. "Joe has worked extremely hard to get back in time for finals footy, and he joins a powerful forward pack who are ready for the challenge on Saturday night. It's always a privilege to play at home, but to host a semifinal in front of our fans adds another level of anticipation and pride to the mix. This game is going to be huge, it doesn't get any bigger than a New Zealand derby match in the knockout stages of Super Rugby," he said.

Having named an unchanged starting XV from that which beat the Chiefs last week, coach Chris Boyd has ensured the main pre-game interest will surround the availability of flanker Ardie Savea in the reserves. Recovering from a high ankle sprain Savea has been bracketed with Reed Prinsep. Boyd said Savea had been working hard to return to the Hurricanes' campaign and a decision on his fitness would be left until late in the piece. Boyd also acknowledged loosehead prop Toby Smith's achievement in reaching 100 Super Rugby appearances, with the Chiefs, Rebels and Hurricanes. "Toby is one of those guys who just goes about his work without fuss or fanfare but he has been a really important factor in the Hurricanes this season," he said.

The Crusaders mark 20 finals games on home soil on Saturday and are unbeaten and in their last eight home playoff games they have never conceded more than 13 points.
While the Hurricanes have won six of their last nine games against the Crusaders, they have never beaten them on the four occasions they have met in the playoffs phase.

1.Joe Moody, 2.Codie Taylor, 3.Owen Franks, 4.Scott Barrett, 5.Sam Whitelock (captain), 6.Jordan Taufua, 7.Matt Todd, 8.Kieran Read, 9.Bryn Hall, 10.Richie Mo'unga, 11.George Bridge, 12.Ryan Crotty, 13.Jack Goodhue, 14.Seta Tamanivalu, 15.David Havili.

Substitutes: 16.Andrew Makalio, 17.Tim Perry, 18.Michael Alaalatoa, 19.Luke Romano, 20.Peter Samu, 21.Mitchell Drummond, 22.Mitchell Hunt, 23.Braydon Ennor.

Hurricanes: 1.Toby Smith, 2.Ricky Riccitelli, 3.Jeff Toomaga-Allen, 4.Michael Fatialofa, 5.Sam Lousi, 6.Brad Shields (captain), 7.Gareth Evans, 8.Blade Thomson, 9.TJ Perenara, 10.Beauden Barrett, 11.Ben Lam, 12.Ngani Laumape, 13.Jordie Barrett, 14.Julian Savea, 15.Nehe Milner-Skudder.

Substitutes: 16.James O'Reilly, 17.Chris Eves, 18.Ben May, 19.Vaea Fifita, 20.Ardie Savea/Reed Prinsep, 21.Jamie Booth, 22.Ihaia West, 23.Wes Goosen.